Allure’s latest spread is causing a lot of concern around the Internet, with many people thinking it promotes cultural appropriation.
In a spread, the magazine purports to show women with straight hair how to get an afro. Instead of doing a story on how the afro, which comes natural to many Black women, is becoming more accepted in popular culture, thanks to the natural hair movement, Allure used a White model with a styled ‘fro.
People are not happy about it at all.
Allure magazine and their "YOU CAN HAVE AN AFRO TOO" article is a pure example of culture appropriation.
— Muriel Wandey (@SayWhat_Wandey) August 4, 2015
— Angela (@angieadoptee) August 3, 2015
— C Slattery (@Legs_for_days) August 2, 2015
I’ve seen a lot of people who just don’t understand what the backlash is about. As we saw with Rachel Dolezal, hair is not just hair to Black women. It means so much more to us because we often struggle with our mane identity.
So, as a Black woman, I’m going to try to explain why hair is so important to us.
Most Black women go through a hair journey at some point in their life. Until recently, there were never even any options in magazines (other than ones that solely covered Black hair) for tutorials geared at women who have natural hair. It’s still not even common to see that as an option, along with any tips for styling relaxed hair. When you grow up without that representation, you start to think something is wrong with your natural hair and equate the straight, shiny hair that many of the hair models have as the ideal. The problem is that those models are White, so our hair will never look like theirs, even if we do get it chemically relaxed. That adds to an ingrained self-hatred we develop because race is a social construct create with being White as the pinnacle. Especially back when I was growing up, being a Black woman with natural hair was looked down upon (by people of all races) and magazines preached that you wouldn’t get a job if you had an afro.
When I was very young, I started to get my hair relaxed because my doctor said the heaviness was giving me migraines. But when my head grew into my hair, I was still relaxing it and straightening it because I thought I had to hate my natural hair. Society seemed to hate it, so why should I love it?
Then, I went to college and was introduced to the natural hair movement. It made me consider why I’d been straightening my hair for so many years and figure out if I was doing it for the right reasons. The best way for me to go through my hair journey was to try going natural, which I did, although I never completed the transition. I was a little nervous about starting to bring back my bushy curls, but I wanted to build my confidence in who I was naturally first.
In the end, I decided to go back to straightening my hair because I’m awful with hair, as well as constantly busy with my two jobs, and my hair is a lot to manage when it’s thick, but now I love it any way it’s done. I no longer have that self-hatred poured into my soul by the media’s reluctance to really show diversity in hair. But that was a lesson it took two decades for me to learn.
That’s why it’s so insulting for a hairstyle Allure has basically ignored in the past when it grows naturally on the heads of many Black women to suddenly be legitimized when a White woman rocks it. I can’t blame those women born with the privilege to have hair seen in magazines because it’s not their fault that’s the desired look, but that doesn’t mean we should accept things for the way they are. We can’t move toward equality without having these candid discussions and empathy for those of us who feel offended by this behavior.
Hair is only just hair when you’re born with hair like the women we’re inundated with on television and in magazines. Otherwise, it’s a symbol of turning self-hatred to self-love and we shouldn’t exploit that just because we’re in the mood to wear an afro.